To be fair, this title might be a bit misleading. It might make you think I really know what I’m talking about, and have always resisted the urge to get back with an ex. Not true. My last serious relationship was ridiculous—we were on and off again for two years, experiencing three breakups and reunifications in that short time. I’m not the expert on how NOT to get back with an ex…but I am now an expert on what you should avoid if you are going to get back with an ex.
To clarify: I don’t think getting back together is always a bad idea. Sometimes, the breakup was (a) a mistake, (b) a way for one or both of you to figure out what you really wanted from the relationship, (c) just a “break” in the first place, or (d) one of a million other things that was only meant to last for a brief period of time. But I think most of the time when people get back together, it’s because one or both of them is trying to return to a point long before the breakup. They’re trying to get back the good parts of the relationship, because sometimes, those are the only parts we remember.
But sometimes, those good parts just aren’t enough to outweigh the bad. So without further ado, here’s a step-by-step guide. You should not get back with your ex if…
…they are in love with you and you aren’t in love with them. This one has a caveat, of course. If you think you could fall in love with them, you can feel free to try. But love’s a thing that can’t be forced, and you shouldn’t get back together with someone just because they want you to. Reunification only works if both parties are equally invested in the idea. Especially do not get back together with someone who’s in love with you just because you like the idea of being loved. Trust me when I say that will backfire on you fast.
…you miss being in a relationship, but not your ex in particular. Relationships aren’t always easy, fun, and filled with flowers, puppies, and rainbows. They’re hard work. The good parts of a relationship come with a lot of additional baggage, and while you might miss the safety, security, and regular sex of a relationship, you probably don’t miss everything that made being with your ex difficult. Remember, there’s a reason you broke up in the first place—the relationship wasn’t working. So unless you’re sure that there’s been some enormous turnaround, you won’t get back to that happy, fuzzy, relationship place with your ex anytime soon. Which leads me to my next point…
…the problems that made you break up are unsolvable ones. When I was eighteen (and a freshwomyn in college), my ex-boyfriend told me out of the blue that he could see us being together for the rest of our lives; that he envisioned us buying a house together, having children…the whole shebang. I had a complete meltdown. I didn’t (and don’t) want a life like that—I wanted to be able to have a good time in college, maybe with an open relationship arrangement, and to take life as it came. We broke up, in part because we wanted totally different things out of life, and that wasn’t going to change. And when we got back together, I was somehow surprised that he still felt the same way. Lesson learned: you can’t change who somebody is, and you can’t change what they want out of life. If someone’s life goals are a deal-breaker, you’re better off staying out of the relationship. This also applies to people who are regrettably living in a long distance situation in the long term—there’s no shame in being unable to stay together because of distance, even though it’s kind of tragic.
…you can’t be monogamous, and they are uninterested in poly or open relationships. Monogamy isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, and sometimes people’s “relationship orientations” (just like their sexual orientations) just don’t line up. If you’re non-monogamous, and your partner does not want (for whatever personal reason) to try an open or poly relationship, you’re both better off looking for people who line up with your desires. Poly people forcing themselves to be monogamous are just like monogamous people forcing themselves to be polyamorous—it just doesn’t work. There’s also no shame in admitting that your orientations just don’t match. This is the same for relationships between kinky/vanilla people who are are simply not sexually satisfied without a particular form of sex play. There’s no shame in incompatibility.
…they are unwilling to accept every aspect of your identity. My ex was the only person (other than my dad) I came out to who was surprised that I wasn’t straight. But he wasn’t just surprised—he was also a bit uncomfortable with the whole thing. Not only was he worried that I’d run off with another girl, but he also resented my attempts to play with gender presentation and figure out my own gender identity. Do not get back with somebody with whom you can’t completely be yourself. All it does is force you back into whatever closet you were in before, and that’s a shitty feeling to match all shitty feelings.
…you’re the only one willing to work on the relationship. If you’re the only one willing to work for the survival of your relationship, you should just turn around and walk out the door. This is obviously easier said than done—sometimes we want something so badly that we’re able to ignore everything about it that makes it bad for us. But if your ex just wants you to fix the problems that caused the breakup—and isn’t ready for the communication that real problem-solving will take—they’re not worth your time.
This list isn’t comprehensive, of course: there are a hundred and one other reasons NOT to get back with an ex, just like there are probably a hundred and one reasons to get back with them. But I hope these guidelines at least help to sort out a few details.
What are your reasons? Have you ever gotten back with an ex? What was it like?